Chicago Transit Authority
The holiday season is a crucial moment in the year. A period where airports, train and bus stations and highways will welcome millions of people heading to cherished destinations and festive celebrations. The holiday season is the crossroad of students returning home and families heading to their hometown with kids in tow. In 2017, AAA found that 107.3 million Americans journeyed 50 miles or more during the period December 23rd through January 1st.
However, holiday journeys can often be a difficult if not disastrous experience, causing great anxiety and placing huge amounts of stress on travellers as well as on the transport network. How can I possibly hope to drag that big sack of presents for my family across the state from my home to theirs? What travel options do I have if the winter weather closes in? In short, what’s the best door-to-door route for me?
Emotions can run high — there’s no way I can be late for the now traditional annual meet-up with old school friends as we all return to our old childhood homes. The responsibility on transit agencies to move people quickly, safely and on-time is rarely higher. Against this backdrop, it is important for agencies to not only prepare for the festive season, but also to optimize their efforts in order to offer the best possible experience to riders; and that is a seamless experience.
Make holidays season travels an opportunity
To make the holiday season more of an opportunity instead of an interminable experience for passengers and agencies alike, transit agencies should be prepared. Without fail, December sees an increase of occasional travellers, made up of visitors and individuals returning to their or their families’ hometowns.
These individuals may not be regular users of public transit services throughout the year or be familiar with the local transit agency. They may be unfamiliar with how to plan their journey using a mix of different modes of public transit, unsure that the route they are taking is the best one for them or uncertain as to how the ticketing for their door-to-door journey works.
It is up to transit agencies to simplify the ticketing and travelling experiences in order to ease and expedite journeys for these individuals. The transit agency has the opportunity to play a part in stitching together otherwise fragmented discrete legs of the trip into a seamless journey experience.
Technology-based solutions designed for digital riders
But what can public transit agencies do to prepare not just for challenges such as the holiday season, but more widely as they look to modernize their services to be more accessible and discoverable by as many passengers as possible?
In a busy and crowded period, travellers are looking for easy, hassle-free journeys and this can be aided hugely by one thing: Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS). MaaS is defined as the integration of services that allows a customer to use whichever mobility service is the most efficient for a journey (public and private) from the moment they leave their front door laden with gifts until they reach their destination and the awaiting cup of eggnog, planning and paying seamlessly based on what they use.
Three roads to MaaS currently exist: account-based MaaS, practical MaaS and subscription-based MaaS. The latter is often referred to as the "Netflix" approach of MaaS, since the riders pay one fare and benefit from a bundle of transport options. While this approach may appeal to locals it may not be the best approach for visitors or occasional travellers. This is why transit agencies should focus on the two additional approaches: account-based MaaS and practical Maas. Both of these are digital-friendly approaches that are likely to be more suitable for the holiday riders of today.
The third approach is practical MaaS and, as its name suggests, convenience is at its core. Individuals open mobility apps such as Transit and Uber, not only to be able to plan their travels, but also to purchase and display their tickets. This can be made possible thanks to Software Development Kits (SDKs) enabling transit agencies to integrate their tickets into third party applications.
Practical MaaS is an interesting option for holiday riders, since they may not be familiar with the route they are taking. By enabling practical MaaS through popular consumer-facing mobility apps, public transit services can become more discoverable and public transit tickets easier to access through a familiar application, helping public transit options become the most convenient way to travel during the holidays.
While practical MaaS may seem to be an interesting offering for holiday riders, it also offers transit agencies a practical route to implementing a modern fare payment system, using the flexibility, security and pay-as-you-grow scalability of SaaS platforms and cloud-native infrastructure to transform how they run fare payment services integrate with the wider MaaS ecosystem. This approach is called Fare-Payment-as-a-Service (FPaaS).
"Tap and Ride" are the words that best describe account-based MaaS. Using a contactless bank card, smartcard or mobile barcode/payment, fares are calculated in the back-office. This approach removes the hassle of buying tickets or understand fares allowing the individual to simply tap and enjoy their ride. This approach uses account-based ticketing as the backbone for MaaS and once live can be extended to private operators.
Fare-Payment as a Service enabling Practical MaaS
Fare Payments as a Service (FPaaS) is a new and better way of delivering ticketing systems to transit agencies and riders. Instead of purchasing a bespoke Automatic Fare Collection (AFC) system, agencies can now sign up to a service delivered via a Fare Payments platform removing the cost, risk and complexity of providing the latest fare payment innovations and allowing agencies to concentrate on what they do best, operating safe, reliable and convenient transit services to riders.
- What makes FPaaS interesting for agencies is that it offers a personalized and cost-effective way of delivering the latest fare payment technology and because it is multi-tenant everyone using the service benefits from regular updates helping agencies keep up with the pace of technology change.
- Furthermore, the best fare payment platforms enable agencies to easily integrate their tickets into third-party apps through APIs and SDKs into providers like Moovit, Uber and Transit.
- FPaaS is run on a pay-as-you-go basis meaning agencies will only pay only for what they use. Through FPaaS, agencies can reduce the cost of fare collection, deploy the latest fare payment technology and enable MaaS.
Tips for a seamless holiday trip
During the festive season, transit agencies should be focused on one single goal: enabling seamless trips for travellers from beginning to end, which means that the first and last mile should not be forgotten.
That is why important consideration should be given to integrating with MaaS apps that people are already using, making alternative modes of transport such as ride-hailing services part of the overall journey. Taking a practical approach to MaaS can simplify the holiday travel experience and encourage travellers to ditch their cars for public transport for a happier, safer holiday. Afterall, not all of us can rely on the door-to-door service of our personal reindeer-hauled sleigh for getting us, and our gifts, delivered safely and on-time.
James Gooch is Head of Marketing for Masabi.
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